Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
QUESTION: Minister Birmingham said he is willing to negotiate with the crossbenchers on the omnibus bill. What are you willing to dump?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are committed to 100 per cent of the measures we took to the last election and which are reflected in the Budget. We always are pragmatic. We are always focussed on getting as much of our agenda through as we can, recognising that we don’t have a majority in the Senate. True to form, we will not be conducting those negotiations through the media though.
QUESTION: But has anything been paired off already?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are committed to all of the measures that are reflected in the Budget, all of the measures that we took to the last election. We will seek to get as much of our agenda through the Senate this fortnight as possible.
QUESTION: And the deadline is the fortnight. It’s all over by then?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We will keep working on getting as much of our agenda through for as long as it takes. But this fortnight is going to be an important fortnight, because it is the last fortnight before the Budget. That is self evident. We have the omnibus savings bill listed this fortnight. We have got the business tax cuts listed this fortnight. These are the two major bills that we want to deal with this fortnight. After this fortnight, we will see where we have got to, how much of our agenda we got through and to the extent that we have got to keep pressing ahead, we will.
QUESTION: Of the 2014 Budget, are you just willing to give up on it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No, we are committed to 100 per cent of the Budget improvement measures reflected in the Budget. We are working to get as many of them through as possible this fortnight. Beyond, we will keep working to get our agenda legislated. That is what we need to do.
QUESTION: What do you make of the polls today?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I do not get distracted. There is a job to be done. This fortnight we have a lot on our plate. I am just focussed on dealing with all of those things.
QUESTION: Do you think the recent energy announcements have been well received?
MATHIAS CORMANN: There is a very important job to be done when it comes to energy security and energy affordability. When it comes to making sure that families and businesses across Australia can have access to an affordable and reliable supply of energy, in a way that still helps us reduce emissions and meet our emissions reduction targets. That is an important debate for us to continue to pursue with practical initiatives to help us achieve those objectives.
QUESTION: Is the Government considering ending the Medicare rebate freeze before 2020?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We cannot afford doing these sorts of things, unless we can pay for them with spending reductions in other parts of the Budget. The Budget is on the second Tuesday in May.
QUESTION: But are you going to lift the freeze early?
MATHIAS CORMANN: As I have just said to you, we cannot afford doing that unless there are spending reductions in other parts of the Budget. The Budget is on the second Tuesday in May.
QUESTION: In relation to the omnibus, has the crossbench been open to negotiations?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We always talk with all parties represented in the Senate in relation to all of our legislation. From the Government’s point of view, our position is very clear, it is reflected in the Budget. We are committed to getting as much of our agenda through as possible. We are talking to everyone and anyone in order to achieve that.
QUESTION: We are hearing more and more from the crossbenchers that they are more inclined to support parts of the bill if it was split up so they didn’t have to vote on the whole thing as one. Is that something the Government is seriously considering?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Our focus is on achieving the outcome, achieving as much of our agenda as is reflected in our Budget. We will follow whatever process is required to help us achieve the outcome that we want to achieve.
QUESTION: Does Paul Keating have a point that allowing superannuation savings to be used to help people buy a home would pull the backside out of super and gut retirement nest eggs?
MATHIAS CORMANN: There is a lot of commentary on commentary on pre-Budget speculation, which is not founded. The Budget is on the second Tuesday in May. When it comes to housing affordability, to the extent that there is housing affordability challenge, it is because demand exceeds supply. You want to boost supply, not boost demand in addressing that.